The Old Man & the Gun
- James Mottram
- 12 October 2018
LFF 2018: Robert Redford's final role perfectly sums up a great screen career
David Lowery's latest, The Old Man & the Gun, is the story of real-life 'gentleman' bank robber Forrest Tucker. A career-criminal and perpetual prison escapee, Tucker's escapades became the focus of a 2003 article in The New Yorker by David Grann, which formed the basis for Lowery's script.
Lowery, who has already proved a distinct voice with work like Ain't Them Bodies Saints and last year's A Ghost Story, excels again with a film that is less a traditional biopic and more an unabashed nod to American crime films of the 1970s like The Friends of Eddie Coyle and Prime Cut.
It's also a tribute to its leading man, Robert Redford, who worked with Lowery on Pete's Dragon – the writer-director's one foray into studio filmmaking. If this is – as Redford says it will be – his final film, then he's ending on a fitting note. Tucker sits neatly alongside Redford's other memorable characters, as if Lowery's film was a perfect summation of one of Hollywood's great careers.
Set in the twilight of his robbing days, Tucker never uses a gun and is almost polite in his stick-ups, which are conducted with two felon friends (Tom Waits and Danny Glover). On his tail is Texas lawman John Hunt (Lowery regular Casey Affleck), while Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a farm widow he takes a shine to, offers a chance for love, redemption and another way of life.
Lovingly rendered by Joe Anderson's grainy cinematography, there's tremendous skill in evidence here – not least in a montage that depicts Tucker's 16 previous prison escapes (including a shot of Redford as a convict on the run in 1966's The Chase). With its star in such a playful mood, it's hard to resist Tucker or his exploits. Frankly, it'd be a crime to miss this.
Screening on Fri 12, Sat 13 and Sat 20 Oct as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2018. General release from Fri 7 Dec.